Home | History and Heritage | Popular music: 1957

Popular music: 1957

Popular Music of the 1950s

As top 10, top 20 and top 40 record charts were not introduced in Australia until 1958, the source for this information was calculated in the 1990s in retrospect, using archival data. During the 1950s, often more than one version of a particular song by different artists charted at the same time, thus more than one artist may be listed for a song. Those songs featured here would have been the most popular songs being played on the radio and sold as recordings are listed for this year.

We have also included a number of songs of the genre known today as rock'n'roll, which at that time was in its infancy, and generally considered outside of mainsteam popular music until the late 1950s. Such songs, which had a major influence on the direction in which popular music was going, are included.

Top Songs of 1957

Diana - Paul Anka
Written and made famous by Paul Anka in 1957 and recorded in May of that same year at Don Costa studio in New York City, Diana is still today one of the best selling singles ever by a Canadian recording artist. His second recording effort (the first was "I Confess", written two years earlier when he was 14), the song was inspired by a girl named Diana Ayoub, whom he had met at his church and community events, and had developed a crush on. Session musicians on the record included Bucky Pizzarelli on Guitar, Irving Wexler on piano, Jerry Bruno on bass, and Panama Francis on drums.

Anka followed up with four songs that made it into the US Top 20 in 1958, including "It's Time to Cry", which hit No. 4 and "(All Of a Sudden) My Heart Sings", which reached No. 15, making him (at 17) one of the biggest teen idols of the time. He toured Britain, then Australia with Buddy Holly. Anka also wrote "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" – a song written for Holly, which Holly recorded just before he died in 1959.

All Shook Up - Elvis Presley
All Shook Up, published by Elvis Presley Music, was composed by Otis Blackwell. It is said that Blackwell wrote the song at the offices of Shalimar Music in 1956 after Al Stanton, one of Shalimar's owners, shaking a bottle of Pepsi at the time, suggested he write a song based on the phrase "all shook up."

According to Peter Guralnick, the song has a different origin. In his book Last Train to Memphis he wrote that Elvis thought "All Shook Up" was a good phrase for a refrain. For this he received a co-writing credit. Elvis himself, during an interview on October 28, 1957, said: "I've never even had an idea for a song. Just once, maybe. I went to bed one night, had quite a dream, and woke up all shook up. I phoned a pal and told him about it. By morning, he had a new song, 'All Shook Up'."

Actor David Hess, using the stage name David Hill, was the first to record the song on Aladdin Records, titled "I'm All Shook Up". In a 2009 interview, Hess revealed the origins of the song, and claimed to come up with the title of the song: "As far as ‘All Shook Up’, the title came from a real set of circumstances and when I decided not to write it, Otis Blackwell did and I had the first recording for Aladdin Records. It was my title, but Otis wrote the song and Presley took a writing credit in order to get him to record it. That’s the way things happened in those days."

Jailhouse Rock - Elvis Presley
The son was the title song of Elvis Presley's third feature film, a musical drama in which Judy Tyler and Mickey Shaughnessy also appeared. Before pre-production began, songwriters Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber were commissioned to integrate the film's soundtrack. Presley recorded the soundtrack at Radio Recorders in Hollywood on April 30 and May 3, with an additional session at the MGM Soundstage on May 9. During post-production, the songs were dubbed into the films scenes, in which Presley mimed the lyrics. Presley designed the set seen during which the song is sung.

(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear - Elvis Presley
The song first recorded by Elvis Presley in 1957 for the soundtrack of his second motion picture, Loving You, during which Presley performs the song on screen. It was written by Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe. It was Presley's fourth number 1 US hit.

Tammy - Debbie Reynolds
The song Tammy, with music by Jay Livingston and lyrics by Ray Evans, made its debut in the film Tammy and the Bachelor. It was nominated for the 1957 Oscar for Best Original Song. Tammy is heard in the film in two versions. The one that became a number one hit single for Debbie Reynolds in 1957 is heard midway through the film, and was a UK No. 2 hit single in the same year. The version that used for the film's main titles was a hit for the Ames Brothers; there have also been several other cover versions of the song. Tammy and the Bachelor was Debbie Reynolds' seventh feature film.

Bye Bye Love - The Everly Brothers
Bye Bye Love is best known in a debut recording by the Everly Brothers. They began writing and recording their own music in 1956, and their first hit song came in 1957, with "Bye Bye Love", written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. The song hit number 1 in the spring of 1957, and additional hits would follow through 1958, many of them written by the Bryants, including "Wake Up Little Susie", "All I Have to Do Is Dream", and "Problems".

It was the first song Paul McCartney performed live on stage, with his brother Mike at a holiday camp in Filey, North Yorkshire. The song was part of Rory Storm and The Hurricanes’ repertoire and a live version recorded in 1960 was released in 2012 on the album Live at the Jive Hive March 1960. The Beatles covered the song during the Let It Be sessions in 1969. George Harrison did a cover of the song in 1974 for his album Dark Horse, changing some of the words.

Bye Bye Love was also covered by Simon & Garfunkel on their final album, Bridge Over Troubled Water. A number of songs on the album give veiled messages from Paul Simon to Art Garfunkel that this would be their last, including a live verson of this song. It had been part of their repertoire since their early days together when they performed as Tom and Jerry.

Wake Up Little Suzie - The Everly Brothers
This song is the best known of any by the Everly Brothers, and was a huge hit, despite having been banned from Boston radio stations for lyrics that, at the time, were considered suggestive. The song is written from the point of view of a high school boy to his girlfriend, Susie. In the song, the two go out on a date to a cinema (perhaps a drive-in), only to fall asleep during the movie. They do not wake up until 4 o'clock in the morning, well after her 10 o'clock curfew. They then contemplate the reactions of her parents and their friends.

Rock and Roll Music - Chuck Berry
Rock and Roll Music is a song written and recorded by rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry. It has been widely covered and is recognized as one of Berry's most popular and enduring compositions. Rock and Roll Music was a record chart hit for Berry, reaching the top 10 in the U.S. The Beatles' 1964 recording topped singles charts in Europe and in Australia, and the Beach Boys had a U.S. top 10 hit with the song in 1976.

The Beatles performed the song in many of their early Hamburg shows, and also played it on the BBC program Pop Go The Beatles. Australia's Mental As Anything turned into a number one hit again in 1988 - recorded for the Yahoo Serious comedy movie, Young Einstein.

Good Golly, Miss Molly - Little Richard
Little Richard (born Richard Wayne Penniman) claims to be the inventor of rock'n'roll, and apart from perhaps Chuck Berry, there aren't too many people around who could justifiably challenge that claim. The title of the song "Good Golly Miss Molly", which was his last major hit, was taken from the pet phrase of one of Little Richard's favorite DJ's, Jimmy Pennick. Like most of Little Richard's songs, it contains a lot of innuendo ("sure like to ball") but most people were too busy listening to the music to notice or didn't get the reference. It actually tells the story of a prostitute at a brothel called "the house of blue light" where she works from "the early, early morning to the early, night"; "rockin' and rollin'" was a 1950s African American reference to having sex, and that is how the genre got its name - because so many of the songs were about "rockin' and rollin'". The name Molly or Moll, as in Moll Flanders, is an old English slang word for prostitute, and led to the term 'gangster's moll' for the girls that gangsters paid to be their companions and to give sexual favours. It has been suggested that the Moll in Little Richard's song is a reference to a (gay) male prostitute in the local vernacular, but this cannot be substantiated in this instance. See the video online

Lucille - Little Richard
Little Richard sang and played piano on his recording, backed by a band consisting of Lee Allen (tenor saxophone), Alvin "Red" Tyler (baritone sax), Roy Montrell (guitar), Frank Fields (bass), and Earl Palmer (drums). Little Richard re-recorded "Lucille", along with many of his greatest hits, multiple times throughout his career.

This song began as a ballad Richard wrote called "Directly From My Heart to You," which he recorded as a member of The Johnny Otis band in 1955. "Directly From My Heart to You" was released by Peacock Records as a B-side, and when Little Richard recorded for Specialty Records in September 1955, he tried recording the song for his first album. It didn't make the cut, but Richard's career took off, and when he needed another single in 1957, he revived the song, but gave it the sound that made him a star, speeding up the tempo considerably. The lyrics were completely rewritten, and Richard went to a common theme for his hits: a girl's name.

If there was a real Lucille, it would probably be either Richard's (female) lover Lee Angel, or his mentor Steve Reeder Jr., who performed under the name Esquerita. Little Richard didn't keep a lot of secrets, so it's more likely that he did make up Lucille. His next single was also named after a girl: "Jenny, Jenny."

Peggy Sue - Buddy Holly & The Crickets
Peggy Sue was written by Jerry Allison and Norman Petty, and recorded and released as a single by Buddy Holly in early July, 1957. The Crickets are not mentioned on label of the single, but band members Joe B. Mauldin (string bass) and Jerry Allison (drums) played on the recording. This recording was also released on Holly's eponymous 1958 album. The song was originally entitled "Cindy Lou", after Holly's niece, the daughter of his sister Pat Holley Kaiter.

The title was later changed to "Peggy Sue" in reference to Peggy Sue Gerron (1940–2018), the girlfriend (and future wife) of Jerry Allison, the drummer for the Crickets, after the couple had temporarily broken up. In her memoir, Whatever Happened to Peggy Sue?, Gerron stated that she first heard the song at a live performance at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium in 1957, and that she was "so embarrassed, I could have died".

Oh Boy!/Not Fade Away - Buddy Holly & The Crickets
"Oh Boy!" was written by Sunny West, Bill Tilghman, and Norman Petty and appeared on the album The "Chirping" Crickets. The song was recorded 29th June - 1st July 1957 at Petty Studios in Clovis, New Mexico with The Picks providing backing vocals. The song in an A-A-B-A format with a 12-bar blues verse and an 8-bar bridge. It was a B-Side, with "Not Fade Away" as the A-Side. "Oh Boy!" peaked at No.10 on the U.S. Charts, and No.3 and No.2 respectively on the UK and Australian charts in early 1958.

"Not Fade Away" was one of the first pop songs to feature the "Bo Diddley" sound, a series of beats (da, da, da, da-da da) popularized by Diddley, who used it on his first single, the egotistically named "Bo Diddley." The signature beat originated in West Africa and was adopted by Diddley in the US, where many artists have used it since. Holly recorded the song in May 1957 with The Crickets at Norman Petty studios in Clovis, New Mexico. It was written by Norman Petty and one, Charles Hardin, who was actually Buddy Holly (his real name was Charles Hardin Holley). Drummer Jerry Allison played cardboard box on this instead of the drums after hearing Buddy Know's drummer had done it on 'Party Doll'. The Rolling Stones recorded a memorable cover of "Not Fade away" in 1964. View the video online

Great Balls Of Fire - Jerry Lee Lewis (right)
A 1957 song written and sung by Otis Blackwell, Jerry Lee Lewis's version that was released as a 45rpm single on the Sun Records label is the most well known. Blackwell was a prolific songwriter who wrote many hits for Elvis Presley. Blackwell died in 2002 at age 70. The song title is derived from a derogatory Southern expression that makes light of the Holy Spirit's manifestation as "cloven tongues as of fire" and the Apostles spoke in tongues on the Day of Pentecost. Like Lewis' previous hit, "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," this song contained a lot of sexual innuendo, which was a shocking thing for a Southern musician to sing in 1957. Lewis grew up in a strict religious household and was in conflict over whether or not he should record both songs. He and Sun Records owner Sam Phillips argued as Phillips tried to convince him to sing it; the tape was rolling during the spat and the exchange can be heard on some Sun Records collections.

This song was released in England the same month that Lewis married 13-year-old Myra Gale Brown, who was the daughter of his cousin (and bass player) J.W. Brown. At the time, Lewis was headlining shows with Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry, but when the UK press found out, public outrage forced Lewis to leave the country. Back in The States, his career faltered as radio stations refused to play his records and stores refused to sell them. The song was ranked as the 96th best song by Rolling Stone magazine. In 1989, a motion picture of the same name detailed part of the life of Jerry Lee Lewis. It starred Dennis Quaid and Winona Ryder. Some cast and crew members had their names removed from the project. Despite poor reviews, Quaid received much acclaim for his performance. View the video online

April Love - Pat Boone
April Love was written as the theme song for a 1957 film of the same name starring Pat Boone and Shirley Jones and directed by Henry Levin. Helped by the release of the film, "April Love" became a number-one hit in the United States for Pat Boone, and spent twenty-six weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 charts (it spent 6 weeks at number 1). In 1958, it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Music, Original Song but lost out to “All the Way”.

Love Letters in the Sand - Pat Boone
Love Letters in the Sand, with music written by J. Fred Coots and lyrics by Nick Kenny and Charles Kenny, was first published in 1931. The. Ted Black and His Orchestra, with vocalist Tom Brown, had the first major hit recording of the song in 1931. The song was "inspired" by an 1881 composition, "The Spanish Cavalier" by William D. Hendrickson. The song was used in Boone's 1957 film Bernardine. Boone did the whistling in the instrumental portion of the song as well. The song originally had a short instrumental introduction, but most versions begin with Boone's voice.

This website is published as information only. Please direct enquiries about places and services featured to the relevant service provider.

Design and concept © Stephen Yarrow | Email us | W3Layouts